I heartily agree with your take, Michael. Yet the Obama administration, in its latest bout of fruitless and counterproductive suck-uppery, is returning its ambassador to Syria. How’s that going? Not well:
The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists,” combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region’s defining alliances. … The message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a joint news conference was sharp and spoke to a shared sense that Iran is gaining influence in the region despite U.S. efforts. Until the outcome of the broader struggle over Iran’s nuclear program becomes clear, analysts here say, it is unlikely Syria will change direction — or that progress can be made toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement.
But we are opening our hand to Syria, sending Robert Ford back to Damascus, reversing the decision to pull our representative following the murder in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Isn’t that enough to begin to lure Syria from Iran, its partner in state-sponsored terrorism? It seems not:
The United States wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, spoke of Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation” and said the countries of the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.” Assad criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region, with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran, a friendship Assad emphasized was secure even given Syria’s faltering economy.
The notion that unilateral gestures and muteness on Syrian human-rights atrocities can break the bond between Tehran and Damascus is not new among Foggy Bottom types. But there are few true believers as devoted as Hillary Clinton. (“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the return of an ambassador marked a ‘slight opening’ toward Syria but that ultimately the United States expects Assad to curb his ties with Iran and his support for militant groups like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.”) Nevertheless it is a gambit divorced from reality, as the two despots made clear for the umpteenth time. (“But Assad and Ahmadinejad on Thursday emphasized that their countries’ relationship had deepened with the signing of an agreement waiving visa restrictions for travel.”)
Alas, as in all things Obami on the foreign-policy front, we have moved the ball backward, not forward. As Iran flaunts its unchecked nuclear ambitions and as America continues to leave doors open to those who want not to be engaged, Syria draws ever closer to the perceived strong horse in the region. Once again, the Obami have nothing to show, and much to explain, in their serial foreign-policy malpractice.